By Suzi Nelson Wahoo Journal
WAHOO – In the Old Testament, the Israelites celebrated a Jubilee year every 50 years. This special year would include the remission of debts and the restoration of property and relationships.
Wahoo First United Methodist Church celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. Using the Israelites as an example, they adopted part of the custom of celebrating the birthday of the church.
Pastor Michael Carpenter, spiritual leader of the First United Methodist Church, said the church had launched a medical debt forgiveness campaign as a way to do “something bigger than ourselves”.
The church has set a goal to raise $15,000 to be donated to a company that eradicates medical debt for pennies on the dollar.
Carpenter announced to his congregation during the Sunday service that the $15,000 goal had been reached.
“They achieved the goal of clearing $1.5 million in medical debt for our neighbors,” he said.
People also read…
The money will be donated to RIP Medical Debt, a company founded in 2014 by two former debt collectors. This is a New York-based nonprofit that Carpenter heard about through fellow clergy in Oklahoma.
RIP Medical Debt buys debt on the secondary market from hospitals and physician groups and pays it off as a charitable act. Carpenter said the fact that RIP Medical Debt can turn a $1 donation into $100 in debt forgiveness is amazing.
“It’s that multiplication factor that really makes it so transformative,” he said.
Medical debt is a significant problem for many Americans. Carpenter said 25% of credit card debt in the United States is medical, while two-thirds of bankruptcies in this country are related to medical debt.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made matters worse, Carpenter said. Americans face rising medical costs as they battle the infection and its effects. Many have also postponed regular medical care during the pandemic.
And there are also millions of Americans who lost their health insurance when their jobs were cut during the pandemic.
RIP Medical Debt outlines its medical debt payment process on its website. They are not buying debt from a specific person, rather they are buying wholesale medical debt from what is available at the time in the secondary debt market.
However, Carpenter said the money raised by First United Methodist Church will first be used to help Saunders County and then go to people living in Nebraska and Kansas, the states included in the Great District. Plains United Methodist Church Conference to which the church belongs.
The campaign was launched on April 24, when the church held a special service to commemorate its organization in 1872.
As they reach their goal, the church will accept more donations. Donations can be made at the church or online at ripmedicaldebt.org/campaign/33917.
“If they’re inspired, they can continue to donate to increase our impact,” Carpenter said.
The congregation wanted to impact people beyond their church as they celebrated 150 years of worship at Wahoo.
“We wanted the 150 year celebration to affect more than our church family,” Carpenter said.
Suzi Nelson is the editor of Wahoo newspaper. Contact her by email at [email protected]